- His favourite word was problem.
Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup (Québec)
Lost his last election, in 2015, with 24% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Questions on the Order Paper June 12th, 2015
With regard to the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, specifically for each of the following constituencies, Beauce, Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lévis-Bellechasse, Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madelaine, Beauport—Côte-deBeaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix, Manicouagan, Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, Jonquière—Alma: (a) for all submitted projects, (i) how many projects were submitted, (ii) what is the description of each project, (iii) what is the total financial contribution for these projects; (b) for all approved projects, (i) how many projects were approved, (ii) what is the description of each project, (iii) what is the total financial contribution for these projects; (c) among the projects that were approved, (i) what is the total number and description of projects benefitting from a non-repayable financial contribution, (ii) what is the total amount and the amounts broken down by non-repayable financial contribution; (d) among the projects that were approved, (i) what is the total number and description of projects benefitting from a repayable financial contribution or loan, (ii) what is the total amount and broken down by repayable financial contribution or loan; (e) among the projects that were submitted, (i) what is the total number and description of rejected projects, (ii) what is the total amount and the amount broken down by requested financial contribution for rejected projects; and (f) for each rejected project, what are the reasons for the refusal?
Business of Supply June 4th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, I made some comments similar to those made by my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle.
When members start making excuses based on some uncertainty around the numbers of people who are suffering, you have a serious problem.
There is an important question here. The numbers may not be exact according to the findings of some of the people who have examined this issue. However, how many suffering communities must there be before the government will deem it necessary to review the program? Twenty-two communities is apparently not enough, so should we let them starve?
Will we have to list 75 communities before this issue becomes a priority and the government admits that changes are urgently needed? I do not know. It is not up to me to give those answers. The government's approach to this issue is completely inadequate. It is not up to me to justify this kind of approach.
Business of Supply June 4th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, I followed roughly two-thirds of the debate in the House today. I have heard the minister of state make that same twisted argument three times now.
Even if that were so, even if in recent months, the evaluations had determined that 46 communities should have had better access to the program and at some point, someone had assessed that there were perhaps 52 communities in need, the fact remains that we are talking about people who do not have enough access to a program to help them feed themselves better. Whether we are talking about 23, 27, 52 or 60 communities, there is a serious problem.
What is the point of the argument that we do not have the exact number of communities that are suffering? As long as the experts have not determined the exact number of communities that are suffering, should we continue to get this wrong and apply a program that does not provide tangible solutions for people who are hungry? To me, that argument borders on despicable.
Business of Supply June 4th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle. As I only have 10 minutes, I will definitely run out of time, just as I do nearly every time I rise in the House.
I am grateful for the chance to speak about such an important subject. I have the opportunity to comment on the motion moved by my colleague from the Northwest Territories, whom I have come to know fairly well over the past four years. I have had the opportunity to see him at work, for example, in committees. He really defends the rights of northerners with exceptional vigour and passion.
I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work done by not just my colleague from the Northwest Territories, but all the representatives from the north, from Churchill Falls to Whitehorse. They are responsible for areas that are bigger than the average European country. They often have to defend very complex and specific files that concern such issues as the economy, the need for access to services and the environment.
Today's topic, nutrition problems in Canada's north, is a good example of a specific problem that my colleagues from the north must address.
People who, like me, live in the south need to understand that basic necessities, including perishable goods, are often shipped to the north by plane. Stores necessarily have higher hydro, maintenance and food storage costs. Naturally, this affects the cost of the food on the shelves.
For example, in April 2014, the price of two litres of milk was around $8 in several communities in the Yukon, while people in the Edmonton area were paying about $3.30 or $3.35 for two litres of milk. That is over 200% more.
One story that really struck me is one Quebeckers may not be aware of. In May 2012, Leesee Papatsie of Iqaluit, Nunavut, created a Facebook page called “Feeding my Family”. With the example I just gave about milk costing 200% more, we can see how difficult it is to feed a family.
Now, this page has more than 25,000 members and, unfortunately, the food situation in the north continues to be very difficult.
This citizen-driven initiative showed us images that struck Canadians and my colleagues. We saw older first nations members rooting through the garbage for food to eat. They were not there to eat properly, but to survive.
The nutrition north Canada program has a fixed annual budget of $60 million, $53.9 million of which is supposed to be earmarked annually for subsidies, in order to lower the price of food in the north. Unfortunately, despite all these millions of dollars, the program is not working.
My colleague's motion is well thought out and illustrates his knowledge of the subject. I will read the motion and comment on it, as it points to major aspects of the problem.
The motion reads as follows:
That the House call on the government to take immediate action to fix Nutrition North Canada and to improve the well-being of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians in Northern Canada by: (a) immediately including in the Nutrition North Canada program the 50 isolated Northern communities accessible only by air that are not currently eligible for the full subsidy;
On the Government of Canada's website, we read:
To be eligible for Nutrition North Canada (NNC), a community must:
lack year-round surface transportation (for example, no permanent road, rail or marine access).
I do not get it. When I read this official definition and I hear that communities that can be reached only by plane are getting partial subsidies, there seems to be a disconnect. I do not understand how it came to this.
In fall 2014, the Auditor General, whose findings I will keep referring to, said that the department did not base its eligibility criteria on the needs of the communities.
The criteria for the nutrition north program were not based on the needs of northern communities. This creates scenarios where the most remote communities that need more support to make food more affordable receive less in the way of subsidies than other communities.
Here is another excerpt from the motion:
...to improve the well-being of Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal Canadians in Northern Canada by...initiating a comprehensive review of the Nutrition North program, with Northerners as full partners, to determine ways of directly providing the subsidy to Northern residents and to improve supports for traditional foods.
It is important to understand that the subsidies do not go directly to families who need better access to healthier food, but rather to retailers and distributers. At the same time, in the fall of 2014, the Auditor General noted that the department had not verified whether those northern retailers had passed the full subsidy on to consumers.
That is a very troubling conclusion. We are talking about millions of dollars in very small communities, and yet the Auditor General had to conclude that no one had verified whether the subsidy served to lower prices for the people who needed it.
I would just like to go off on a tangent about what we saw this week from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. When we see how badly the Conservative government messes up initiatives and so-called solutions targeting northern communities and sometimes primarily first nations, we have to wonder why a government would be so negligent.
This week, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs stayed seated while all of the representatives of Canadian communities gave some of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's findings standing ovations.
There is something awry with this government's mentality and its approach to the problems that northerners and first nations have. It is astounding. It needs to change as soon as possible, but that will probably only happen if there is a change in government.
Here is another part of the motion:
...improve the well-being of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians in Northern Canada by...creating equitable program-eligibility criteria for Northern communities based on their real circumstances;
Once again, judging from the Auditor General's findings, the minister did not collect the information needed to manage the nutrition north Canada program or measure its success. We are talking about $60 million shared among small communities to meet an essential need: improving access to healthy food. However, the Auditor General found that the government did not have measures in place to assess the program outcomes.
We need to go back to the communities and, in the future, make sure that we are taking their real circumstances into account throughout the process.
Here is another part:
...improve the well-being of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians in Northern Canada by...providing sufficient funding to meet the needs of all Northern communities;
Once again, this is in line with the Auditor General's conclusions about how the department had not implemented the program's cost containment strategy.
Since I do not live in the north, but on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, I will share one or two quotes from people who live in the north. An MLA from the Yukon, Mr. Elias, said:
The change from a transportation subsidy to a retail subsidy, combined with the decision to no longer cover surcharges and taxes, has dramatically increased the cost of getting food into Old Crow.
Someone who lives in the area, like hundreds of others who testified, told us quite clearly that the multi-million dollar measures the Conservative government put in place in the past few years have not helped reduce prices significantly, which would have helped thousands of people feed themselves better. This result is absolutely pathetic.
Women Helping People in Need June 4th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, austerity measures are hurting people who use public services and the professionals who provide them. Across the board, it is mainly women who are paying the price. It is no wonder that the women's global charter for humanity is promoting the principles of justice, solidarity and equality.
Through their work with the more vulnerable members of our society, hundreds of not-for-profit organizations stand up for these fundamental principles every day. Of course, most of the human resources and administrators within those organizations are women. In my riding alone, there are dozens of organizations working for our community's welfare. Here are just a few examples: ABC des Hauts Plateaux Montmagny-L'Islet, Maison de secours La Frontière, La Traversée and the Centre-Femmes du Grand-Portage.
These women are changing the lives of countless vulnerable families and individuals, and they are managing to do so in spite of the limited, unstable budgets they have to work with. In the fall of 2015, I hope to see a majority of elected members in this House who understand that the government has a duty to act as a reliable, respectful partner to these women. Without them, there would be so much less compassion in the world. On behalf of all my colleagues, I want to thank them for their profound conviction that the world can and should be a better place and for the perseverance they show as they stand up for their values.
Regional Economic Development May 15th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, a negative trade balance and the loss of high-quality jobs, that is what comes of the Conservatives' bad economic action plans.
Workers are being laid off in urban centres and rural areas. The WEC TOURS plant in Matane, RioTinto, Fer et Titane in Havre-Saint-Pierre and the sawmill in Rivière-aux-Rats are just a few examples.
How can the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec justify his decision to cut $21 million from the agency's budget by 2018, when so many workers are losing their jobs in the regions? Quebeckers have had it with the Conservatives' bad economic action plans that just do not work.
Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1 May 14th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague used the word “family” a lot in his speech, and he talked about all the amazing things his party is doing for Canadian families.
I received a document from some very competent people about the universal child care benefit for middle-class households, meaning a household that earns, on average, between $44,000 and $83,000. Once you receive the $720 benefit, if you subtract the provincial or federal tax you will have to pay, since the benefit is taxable, and if you take into account the loss of the over $2,000 child tax credit that was cut in this budget, you will be left with about $150 in your pocket. From $720 you will get just $150. That is so little that accountants are calling their clients to tell them to keep the money in the bank because they will have to pay taxes on it later as a result of the government's decisions.
The Conservatives have a funny way of helping families by giving with one hand and taking almost all of it away with the other hand, all in the same year. It is rather strange.
Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, given her background, I am sure that my colleague knows people living in places where governments have taken a hard line against radicalization. I was touched by some of her comments, such as when she said that we must absolutely not let security measures get out of control.
I would like to hear more from my colleague about that aspect of the problem. I think that allowing security measures to get out of control, agreeing to go that way, is kind of like letting the radicals win the fight in the medium and long terms. I think that my colleague is in a good position to talk to us about this element, which is extremely important in this case.
Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 May 4th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, there are 60 leading Canadian business people, entrepreneurs and investors, including Flickr co-founder Mr. Butterfield, who have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister. This is just one example of what we can read in that letter:
We believe [the entrepreneurs] that this legislation threatens to undermine Canada's reputation and change our business climate for the worse.
...we fear that this proposed legislation will undermine international trust in Canada's technology sector....
These people are very busy. They are in the type of business that is changing all the time with new technologies. They have more to do than wonder if a bill would actually threaten their business. Some of the best are saying that it would threaten Canada's technology sector.
What can my colleague tell those people? Are they doing this because they are all NDP members and suddenly they want to stand against the government for no good reason? No. We should be worried, as they are.
Montmagny May 4th, 2015
Mr. Speaker, Montmagny is definitely one of the most vibrant cities in the Chaudière-Appalaches region. It is a wonderful place to live and is home to many leaders in every sphere, including the political, municipal, business and non-profit communities.
Recent initiatives speak for themselves. Here are a few examples. A fantastic municipal library just opened its doors. Magasin Lévesque, with the help of community volunteers, hosted a fashion show that raised $14,000 for the Foundation of the Centre de réadaptation en déficience physique Chaudière-Appalaches. The Fondation Hélène-Caron is holding a very successful fundraising campaign called “As-tu ton pied?”, which gives residents the opportunity to buy a square foot of land on which a future centre of expertise on palliative care will be built. Fréchette Ford will be opening soon and will join the many other car dealerships, such as Thibault GM, Lapointe Automobiles, Montmagny Hyundai, Montmagny Mazda, Montmagny Toyota, Honda de Giro and Montmagny Kia, in making Montmagny the best place south of Quebec City to buy a vehicle.
Finally, I would like to invite all Canadians to visit Montmagny this summer. Our downtown has plenty of history and a waterfront with beautiful views of the river.